we don’t fall asleep at the table.

kathyescobar a view from the margins, advent & lent, dreams, equality, friendship, incarnational, injustice, synchroblog 4 Comments

staywokeadvent_square

I haven’t had much time to write this past month. Ideas come floating by here and there, but in the hubub of the holiday, they magically disappear and I honestly can’t remember what any of them are anymore. I always take that as a sign that I somehow wasn’t supposed to write them.

One has indeed lingered as part of the #staywokeadvent synchroblog series. All month long people are writing reflections centered on this season related to justice and racism and advent and Jesus. As I mentioned a few weeks ago related to some thoughts on Ferguson, it is tricky to communicate online. There’s so much unsafety, harshness, and fear in many of the conversations, and I long for safe spaces to sit and process and share together face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart over long periods of time. Places to talk about the real stuff underneath the surface. To switch the conversation from the details of indictments into the more important issue that’s much harder to talk about–the deep grooves of racism in this country.

We can’t talk about healing, justice, and change without breaking out of denial and facing this reality.

And breaking out of denial is all about waking up.

Here’s the thought that keeps swirling around in my head this advent season related to staying awake: We usually don’t fall asleep at the table.

We fall asleep at home on our couches.

We fall asleep in zoning out in front of the TV.

We fall asleep sitting in church listening to someone talk.

But when we’re sitting together with friends, eating and talking and sharing and being together, we usually don’t fall asleep.

When we’re around the table, we look in each other’s eyes and know each other’s names and hear each other’s stories.

We’re connected in a way that will never happen when we are sitting in rows facing forward or staying safe in our own little neighborhoods, safely segregated.

When we’re in a group of people that look like us, think like us, believe like us, it’s easy to stay there and remain comfortable and never need to “wake up.”

We can stay protected.

We can stay the same.

We can tune out what we don’t want to hear.

I keep being drawn to Jesus because I think he turns our let’s-keep-the-status-quo tendencies on its head. He turns the powers of this world upside down. He reminds us that following him will be hard and difficult and that there will be so many forces against it. He tells us that peace can be made and that deep humility is the path there.

He wakes us up.

He wakes the world up.

And the more I think about his teachings, the more I think that all roads lead to a very simple concept that we humans tend to really stink at–friendship.

Yes, friendship.

Meaningful in-the-flesh friendship.

Not friendships with people like us. That’s not complicated, and the scriptures tell us that inviting our own little circle to our dinner parties is definitely not the idea.

Jesus was always talking about friendship with people not like us.

He calls us to healing and restoration and relationship that goes far beyond the surface and into our souls.

Where the walls between us begin to crumble.

Where we soften our hearts and let others in.

Where we actually know each other.

Where we give and receive, laugh and pray, listen and learn together.

Where “us and them” begins to dissolve.

Where we are no longer “over” or “under” another but instead are “alongside” as equals and real brothers and sisters.

Where relationship trumps religiosity.

Where power is equalized.

Where we are uncomfortable.

Where we are awake to God’s spirit at work.

And every time I think about friendship, I always come back to the table.

That mysterious place of hospitality and hope where we sit toward each other and tell our stories and share our hearts and learn things that we’d never know unless we were taking the time to be there.

We don’t fall asleep at the table.

I am all-in on activism, protests, and all of the things that are required to shift power and bring wholeness and healing to this land. Change won’t happen without it, and I hope more and more ground is gained this way. Justice is what love looks like in public (Cornel West) and it’s all so necessary and important.

But I can’t help thinking that systemic change related to injustice & oppression, whatever that looks like, won’t really happen if we can’t sit at the same table together as friends.

Friends who are waking up to each other, to God’s spirit at work, to our unique differences and our common ground, to the call to create a better future for our children together.

Yeah, I’m not naive. I know it’s asking a lot.

Relationships are hard to make. They call us to come out from behind our barriers & Bible studies & head knowledge & all-the-other-things-that-keep-us-protected.

But the messy, crazy story of the birth of Jesus always reminds me how painful & uncomfortable & awkward & weird & unexpected God’s ways are.

And in the words of Alexie Torres-Fleming is one of my favorite quotes: “The kingdom is not going to just drop out of the sky.” We have to participate in making it.

This advent I’m personally humbled and reminded that it’s time to sit around more tables and pull in more chairs.

To stay awake.

To listen to more stories.

To remember I’ve got a lot to learn.

We don’t fall asleep at the table.

And the good news is we all always need to eat.

//

also, here a few other things I wanted to highlight before I forget:

1. I’ve been thinking a lot about the movie “a time for burning” this past week. We watched it 6 years ago at a Refuge movie night & I wrote about it here. It’s the true story of a Lutheran pastor in 1967 who tried to organize a church social with an African American church.  Oh goodness gracious, it’s a tough one to watch but with so many important things embedded into it to consider.

2. I am excited to be traveling in January & February for some Faith Shift Processing Parties–in Portland, Nashville, Seattle, and Phoenix. Here are some of the details and if you live near there and would like to join in, you are officially invited.

3. A few weeks ago I was on The Drew Marshall Show talking about Faith Shift. it’s always an adventure & here’s the link if you want to listen in.

4. Christine Sine’s got all kinds of good contemplative stuff up for Advent this month at her site at www.godspace-msa.com. She’s also coming to The Refuge May 30th 2015 for a Spirituality of Gardening Seminar.  I’ll post details once we know them.

5. Lastly, a collaborative book project a friend pulled together a long while back got released a few weeks ago. It’s called Simple Church: Unity within Diversity and has 24 different voices centered on simple church. Mine is called “A Church that Restores Dignity Where It’s Been Lost.”

Whew, that’s a lot of rambling but that’s all I’ve got for this week. See you Monday.

Let’s stay awake. 

peace, kathy

when christmas is hard.

kathyescobar advent & lent, faith shifts, healing 15 Comments

when christmas is hardOh, this time of year! Some people love it, some people hate it.  There are so many things tied to the time from Thanksgiving to not just Christmas but also the start of a new year.  It brings to light the reality of losses, financial pressures, broken relationships, shame, family brokenness or non-existedness, faith shifts, depression, and dreams that keep on not coming true.

You name it–this season stirs it up.

I wrote a series a few years ago called “When Christmas is Hard” and thought I’d share it again this week. I’ve got a lot of friends hanging on by a thread right now physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I noticed that I said “Christmas is hard” at least 10 times in conversations today.  Tomorrow night is our Blue Christmas gathering at The Refuge; I wish we could do it online but it’s just one of those things that requires “being there.” We have 8 experiential stations that give a place to get in touch with what’s really going on inside and gather some hope, ranging from loss & comfort to unlocking the good to hand massages to anger (breaking ornaments) and other loveliness.

Meanwhile here are the “When Christmas is Hard” posts if you or someone you know can use them:

One more that might resonate in this same theme, too:

I’ll close with part of this Blue Christmas Prayer from Coffehouse Contemplative I stumbled on this week that I think is really lovely.  You can read the whole prayer here. I adapted some of the “they’s” that were in the prayer to “we’s” because I know a lot of us are feeling some of these things right now in different ways.

A Blue Christmas Prayer 

Around us, O God, the singing can be heard: ‘Joy to the world…let heaven and nature sing.’ This season is to be one of hope eases our minds, when peace soothes our hearts, when love warms our souls, and when joy comes each morning.

But there are many of us who do not feel this joy. Some might try, others have given up trying. ‘Where is this joy for us?’ we ask. The world has found joy but some feel as if it has passed us by. Our minds are not at ease…we feel too much doubt. Our hearts are not at peace…there is too much to do. Our souls are not warmed…the chill of death is too troubling. Where, O God, can joy be found? We ask this as we come before you in prayer, opening ourselves to the possibility that hope, peace, joy, and love might still come to us.

We pray for the lonely, that we might find comfort in another’s touch.

We pray for the downtrodden, that we might find relief from our burdens.

We pray for those wrestling with depression, that a light of calm might bring us peace.

We pray for those dealing with stress, that we might find the courage to let go.

We pray for the grief-stricken, that we might experience the newness of life that you bring.

May joy come to the world, O God, and may we grasp some of that. We do not pray for joy that is temporary or fleeting, but a joy that runs deep and sustains us even in moments of despair. We seek this joy in a season that can be less than joyful.

O God, hear our prayer. 

Amen.

peace from colorado, kathy

race & ferguson & what might be swirling around in our heads and hearts

kathyescobar dreams, equality, incarnational, injustice, leadership 10 Comments

this is gong to require a lot of us

It’s been an interesting paradox of a Thanksgiving week. The joy of having our kids all home for the holiday and not wanting to think of anything other than being together, contrasted with the reality of the painful events in Ferguson and what it means for all of us.   

As a white woman of privilege, I’ve been thinking about some of the thoughts, feelings, actions or non-actions a lot of us seem to be wrestling with right now.

I’m wondering who might relate to some of these thoughts & feelings swirling around in our heads & hearts this past week?

Feeling terrified to post anything on Facebook for fear of who’s going to say what in response.

Reading comments on other people’s Facebook pages and beginning to feel sick to our stomach as we see how ugly it can quickly get.

Feeling bad for posting fun Thanksgiving pictures amidst others’ pain and grief.

Confused by the conflicting responses about the grand jury evidence and don’t know what to believe.

Feeling guilt for our white privilege.

Not sure what to do or say because we don’t want to offend the realities of our black brothers & sisters.

Uncertain about reading almost any and all media coverage because it is all feels inflammatory.

Realizing that even though we want to believe we’re not racist, we know we must embrace we actually are and that our racial biases have contributed to the brokenness.

Wanting to honor the work of police officers and the way they protect, serve, and put their lives on the line every day. 

Desiring to get involved and show our support but don’t want to appear like a Ferguson band-wagon person who only joins the wave when it’s popular.

Completely overwhelmed by how big the problem is and don’t know what we’ve got to offer or even where to start.

Wondering where the safe and healthy spaces are to actually talk about this, to listen, learn, and reckon with our real fears and feelings without it devolving into an ugly debate.

Filled with a deep desire to be a participant in change but not sure how.

Do you relate to some of these?

I do.

Last Monday night Jose and I were down in Denver at the Shorter AME Church for the announcement of the grand jury indictment. We went to listen and learn and stand in solidarity as best we could in that moment, not knowing which way it would go. I felt so nervous walking in. We had never been there before; I honestly had no idea who was coming or what it would be like and was happy to see a mix of young and old, black and white, men and women, and a few dear friends from around Denver. It was intense, painful, filled with grief and reality and passion. We listened to many amazing men and women and youth sharing perspectives that needed to be heard and said. To me, one of the most powerful moments was the 4 1/2 minutes of silence right after the indictment and then a time of prayer with all the clergy present, a mix of different denominations, shapes and sizes. After a few stories, anyone between the ages of 15 to 30 were asked to tap the faith leaders out and replace us up front. Yes, the youth will lead us on this one. Our job is to step aside and support them as they step into their leadership. And there’s a lot of work to be done.

On the way home, the four of us processed together and felt the heaviness that many are feeling right now. The reality of broken oppressive systems. The reality of the pain of brothers & sisters whose lives aren’t mixed up in ours in real life. The reality that we live in a predominantly white middle+ class conservative neighborhood where there are strong beliefs different from us. The reality that even though Jose is Hispanic and our kids are brown, we are comfortably distant from a lot of this daily reality.

But not anymore.

We all know something has shifted through Ferguson, things have tipped, and “comfortably distant” is thankfully gone for the USA.

It’s time.

Real change, real peace, real healing, real equality will be a bumpy, brutal road, one that was started a long time ago and we have the privilege of participating in today in new ways.

And oh, this is going to be rough.

The deep grooves of racism in this country are built on generations of division, oppression, and fear. They are not going to go down easy. Take a quick scan down the comments in almost anyone’s Facebook posts and it’s apparent how deep the division and differences are and how terrible we are at non-violent communication. “The church” is all tangled up in it, too, a huge conscious and unconscious perpetrator of division and separation instead of the healing and break-down-all-the-walls-between-us force it’s supposed to be.

There’s just no way around all of this feeling uncomfortable. Vulnerable. Hard.

And because we’re humans we usually want to find some kind of short-cut, an easier way, a simple surface solution.

But there’s no short cut or avoiding pain on this one.

It’s going to require a lot of us. It should.

It’s going to require a lot of grace for us, too. We are going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. 

But I have hope, too, that over time we can indeed become participants in justice in small & big ways in the kinds of ways Jesus calls us to.  That we won’t let our fears completely paralyze us. That friends & allies & advocates & community cultivators will be born and re-born all over the place.

That we will let our discomfort, our confusion, our lack-of-knowing-what-to-do-next be okay because it’s all part of learning.

God, you know our hearts. You know we have a lot to learn. Please teach us & show us the way forward.

power & transformation.

kathyescobar church stuff, equality, faith shifts, incarnational, injustice, leadership, spiritual formation 11 Comments

power offers an easy substitute

This month’s Synchroblog was centered on spiritual abuse & redemption. I didn’t have time to write earlier but it is a topic near and dear to my heart. At the Denver Faith and Justice Conference two weekends ago my friend Ryan Taylor shared about 5 stages of power, a blend of Janet Hagberg and Richard Rohr’s work on power. Respecting and understanding these stages is important and something I wish we would talk about more openly, more honestly, more reflectively in small and big pockets.

As we get in touch with our own story related to power, we connect to the bigger story about it, too.

Plus, all spiritual abuse comes from power issues.

However, lots of other roads also lead there. Inequality, injustice, church woundedness, oppression, broken relationship–all of these things usually, somehow-someway have power issues underneath.

One of the things I love about Jesus and the Kingdom of God we’re called to co-create is that he turns all the power structures of the world upside down. What we think is strong, isn’t. What we think is success, isn’t. What we sometimes think is worth following because it looks shiny & “powerful” & cool, often isn’t.

It seems like there are several categories of people that cover most of us when it comes to power:

  1. Our weird crazy human draw to either amass power or join-with-those-who-have it.
  2. Those with a tendency to search for a king, a hero, someone-to-follow-and-tell-us-what-to-think-and-feel.
  3. Those stripped of power because of the grooves of oppression and injustice who feel like there’s no option for change.

Today, I wanted to quickly walk through the 5 stages of power that Ryan shared at the conference. They will only scratch the surface, but I personally think they are so helpful to wrestle with and consider.

We can so easily get stuck in the first three:

  • Stage 1 – Powerlessness // This stage is characterized by inner voices as well as outer voices that communicate we are inferior and always will be. Underneath it makes us scared to death, terrified. We get stuck in inferiority and have a blind obedience to systems to gain reward or promotion. To move to the next stage, we have to begin to have some sense of an identity, no matter how small.
  • Stage 2 – Power by Association // This stage is where power is found entirely outside of oneself through external associations. We gain our power by being part of a team we want to be associated with and begin to mimic their actions, beliefs, and culture. All of our desires are born from other people. In this stage, we have extreme loyalty to our leaders and don’t know who we are apart from them.
  • Stage 3 – Power by Symbol and Achievement // This is when power is found by external symbols such as titles, roles, and responsibilities. We’ve learned to play the game and succeed in it. The system provides perks, and we get trapped by golden handcuffs or fear of losing what we’ve gained.  Our roles and responsibilities make us something and we’re not sure who we are without them. For many Christians, this can be our roles in the church, the ways we serve, the ministries we are part of.

All these first 3 stages of power are about finding it externally. I believe wholeheartedly that “the church” is built upon these first three stages of power and has a possibly unconscious but still vested interest in keeping people there.

Why?

Because Stages 1-3 of power keeps things manageable & contained. It’s linear. It’s easy to follow. It’s part of our work-hard-and-make-your-way-up mentality that so much of our faith and work is built on.

They are also a dangerous cocktail related to creating a breeding ground for spiritual abuse.

Fortunately, many of us have hit some kind of what Hagberg calls “The Wall” when it comes to power. We know something’s not quite right. We know the power we’ve ascribed to isn’t the Jesus-y kind. We know we’ve given ourselves over to something that just doesn’t satisfy. We can no longer just blindly follow certain kinds of leaders. We begin to confront our false self that thrives in Stages 1-3 and get in touch with our authentic souls.

I believe hitting a wall and moving out of Stages 1-3 is true spiritual and emotional maturity because we begin to gain power internally in the deep places of our souls, the kind I think Jesus was talking about.  I also think it’s the best way for abuse survivors to heal.

When we allow ourselves to let go of the safety of what I’d call “false power” we begin to move toward the next stage, which I hope is an area more and more of us are willing to bravely explore:

  • Stage 4 – Power by Reflection and Inner Knowledge. This is when we humble ourselves and allow ourselves to consider questions about power and ourselves and systems that we hadn’t before.  We let go of symbols, titles, or knowledge about God and begin more honest self-reflection. It’s marked by humility, openness, and willingness. Ryan called it an “attentive patience” (I love that). I think this is where a lot of faith shifters and people-in-big-life-transitions are living right now, realizing so much of what we’ve ascribed to isn’t leading to life.
  • Lastly is Stage 5, Power by Known Purpose. We know our limits and accept ourselves for who we are; we also embody a deep compassion for ourselves and others.  I see known-purpose-power as a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others in a way that isn’t concerned with protecting ourselves because we know we don’t need to. We have a deeper security that guides us and a stable, secure foundation to live from that is based on freedom, not fear. Think how cool it would be if there were communities of faith and living systems (link) built on this kind of power.

I hope we keep talking about and re-thinking power–our own power, the power of the systems so many of us have ascribed to, and the kind of power we are called to cultivate in this world as Jesus-followers-and-dignity-restorers-and-lovers-of-people.

Oh, we are in desperate need of transformed Stage 4 & 5 power in this world!

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving week. All 5 of my kids will be home starting tomorrow and so Jose and I will be in happy mommy and daddy vacation mode. See you next week.

peace and hope and prayers for ferguson, kathy

things that make me stand on tables & go a little crazy

kathyescobar church stuff, crazy making, equality, ex good christian women, faith shifts, injustice, rants 30 Comments

sometimes there are things that make us want to cry and swear updated

A few days ago I had a really interesting & unexpected thing happen to me that stirred up a lot of big feelings.  It’s too complicated to go into all of the details, but the essence is this–I criss-crossed with the realities of what happens when conservative Christian power intersects with the work of standing alongside the marginalized and oppressed in more than just words. This wasn’t something related to The Refuge or even me personally but as I heard the story of what happens when some passionate Christians decide to become allies and advocates to those on the underside of power and the subsequent fallout for their simple choices, I began to cry and found that I just couldn’t stop. I even almost threw up in the parking lot. I think I just felt truly sickened by hearing yet another story of power & privilege attempting to thwart justice & mercy in the church that’s in such desperate & dire need of change.

I started thinking of my own story of how so much of my downfall in big church wasn’t about gender equality (even though that was the last straw), but about my advocating for the underrepresented, for the poor, for the marginalized & oppressed, for the least, for the last.

In the end, it was about power.  The powerful didn’t want to be uncomfortable. And the powerful paid the bills.

I was perceived as a little crazy. Honestly, I don’t think even one of my ideas for the church are crazy when I look at the gospels and the early church.

What’s actually crazy is our current system of church and power and how it’s just-so-freaking-contrary-to-the-ways-of-Jesus-that-sometimes-it’s-like-a-dark-comedy-or-a-bad-dream.

No wonder people are leaving it.

Anyway, I’ve been really raw and wacked out these past few days. It’s stirred up some interesting feelings about how tiring it is to bump up against the same old same old over and over and over again when it comes to equality and dignity and mercy and justice in the place where it’s supposed to be the most freely-given.

I started thinking about these things that turn me into a crazy woman who wants to stand on tables and rant & rave & cry & swear & eat a lot of chocolate.

Yeah, I admit, I go a little nuts when people say things like:

  • “I’m not as broken as they are”
  • “We let women lead.” 
  • “But remember, the church is made up of imperfect people.”
  • “Well you know, there are biblical roles for women and men.”  
  • “I’m not like those people.” 

Or leaders trying to maintain the status quo out of economic fear say:

  • It’s just not the right time yet…”  (yeah, it will never feel like the “right time” when it comes to changing deep grooves of patriarchy and oppression because there will always be push back)
  • They won’t come if they feel uncomfortable.”

White people of privilege who say things like:

  • “Well, now I am discriminated against.”
  • “I don’t know what they’re so angry about anyway.” 
  • “There are two sides to the story” (on certain issues like Native Americans & slavery) 
  • There’s no such thing as white privilege.” (My son told me about the Daily Show segment with Bill O’Reilly and I made the mistake of watching it).

Men and women who aren’t in relationship with someone in poverty or pain who say things like:

  • “Well, They just need to ________…” (like people who are in deeply embedded grooves of poverty and cycles of abuse are just one-sentence-away from radical change)
  • I worked hard to get where I am today; why can’t they?” 

I also go a little nuts when I think of:

  • Mark Driscoll probably getting a new church or ministry within the next year and making 6 figures at it.
  • Little boys and girls being taught total depravity and that they are miserable wretches with nothing good in them in so many Christian schools and grownup men & women being taught the same thing in so many churches.
  • People who go to churches week after week after week after week because they love the teaching & the music & the kids program but are lonely and have no one in their life who knows what’s really going on with them.
  • Yet another church splitting or ministry dividing over the issue of homosexuality.
  • Yet another church being planted that’s fully funded and resourced and filled with white, suburban families that all look exactly the same.
  • All the money that’s floating around out there in “the church” to keep so many people safe and comfortable when so many women, men, and children here and abroad are sick & dying & desperate & in-so-much-need-of-hope-and-help.

Yeah, I guess a lot of things get me riled up, and I think that’s okay. These are things I deeply care about for a reason.

One thing that I did these past two days was not try to just buck up and push my crazy feelings aside. I let myself cry & swear & talk & share & process the anger and sadness inside of me. It really helped.

I’d love to hear yours. What are your makes-you-crazy-when-people-say-or-do-that things related to faith & church?

//

ps: Something that does give me hope this week is the ongoing work of Christians for Biblical Equality; they work tirelessly on behalf of gender equality around the world. They asked me to write a piece for Arise and here’s what emerged–What I Keep Learning About Gender Equality and the Church. Keep on keeping on…